Friday, March 13, 2015

So Terry Pratchett God Damned Died

Terry Pratchett was Britain's best-selling author until Harry Potter came along, but it was never particularly popular to read Terry Pratchett.
His work had a fairly strong academic following, but it was never considered terribly smart to like Terry Pratchett.
His output over the years has been massive but he wasn't seen as such a steward of the genre or as formative to our hobby's conventions over the last nearly 40 years, not as much as a Salvatore or a Sanderson.
He won awards and stuff but wasn't often discussed as truly great, except perhaps in the context of Douglas Adams' Roger Moore.
He was funny, but is usually remembered for when he was being silly.

It was never really considered COOL to like Terry Pratchett, really. Certainly not in the way it was cool to like his buddy Neil over the years.

I'm of the opinion that a lot of the above notions are mistakes, just plain wrong, or wholly stupid. Obstinate in the face of evidence.

It took me a long time to actually realize I was a fan of Terry Pratchett, speaking of stupid. That he wasn't just some I'd bought 13 books by because they were there. I'd have never bought him at all had I not worked in a bookstore and noticed how often we had to restock those books with the striking cover dress in the fantasy section. You wouldn't be reading these words if I hadn't noticed the combined edition of GURPS' Discworld RPG, decided I didn't really like the book that much, and sat down to write an easier one. Oh I guess I never finished that, so I guess I'll do that this week.

I had the mis/fortune to come upon Joseph Heller, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Kurt Vonnegut at the same time, and I don't think my sensibilities ever entirely recovered. Certainly my writing didn't. But Pratchett wasn't as much of a formative figure in my life as, say, Ray Harryhausen. So his passing sucks but doesn't affect me like that did. Instead it was his final years, suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer's and contemplating suicide, that brought a new meaning to me, since both of those things have affected my family so much. I may be lucky enough that I'm never in the exact same position someday, but my family's medical history puts doubt on that. I hope I manage myself with half the aplomb in my later years, degenerative malady or no.

I'm not going to list a bunch of famous quotes, but I could. I'm not going to give you a where-to-start reading order, though I will if anyone asks me. The internet has you covered on these fronts already, although I WOULD like to know where all these people suddenly sucking off Small Gods came from, since I've been saying that was his best book for ages only to be shouted down by Good Omens and Mort fans. But then that was my experience with Pratchett: being alone. Even in college I never found anybody who knew him, much less was a giant fan, and certainly nobody in my family or circle of friends. Even the internet community seemed to prefer him more just for this sequence or that sequence, and in my tenure at the shop the people who are familiar with him are mostly not fans.

Here's something you might not expect or think appropriate to a memorial article, though: I get it. I get why. The simple fact is that while I might like this about Terry or that about Terry what I really love is the style of his prose. I mean you don't read this many books just because of Latin puns. Conversational while not (until his most recent, dictated books, understandably) just "how people talk," a literary serious free of mainstream literature as-a-genre's self-importance, as deft an incorporation of the language of motion pictures and the basic prosody unit of The Image as I've found in even better writers. Something I've never seen him get enough credit for (and this is my poetry love talking) was his facility with a living text, the way he would write in things that worked only when read, things that worked only when SPOKEN, or HEARD, and even things that worked only when LOOKED AT. But it's exactly the kind of work that openly invites you to find reasons not to enjoy it, and that's before you even get to things like subject matter (medieval rock n roll! soccer!) or differing senses of humor. (Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove has been rightly praised by cineastes new and old for containing 'every type of joke,' including shitty ones. Honesty demands the comparison.)

And as much as the Discworld series has been eulogized, and Good Omens sequel/motion picture lamented, if you think those are the only novels he ever produced, or that novel-length-and-structured narratives were the only fiction he ever produced, or that he didn't put out some fantastic nonfiction, then you are really missing out.

I never held much hope for meeting him since I've never crossed an ocean before and it was unlikely to run into him at Wendy's. I did write him a whole letter I never sent, that I since lost. So I missed out, too.

There will be a few more Pratchetty posts mixed in here for a while. That's not to most people's taste but fuck you- I don't have a boss for this page and I'm sadder about this than I expected so I'ma get some mother fucking catharsis.

Maybe it's still not super cool to like Terry Pratchett as much as I do but that dude in the picture up top responded to being knighted by learning how to forge and making his own sword out of a meteorite when he was older than most of my living relatives. And that's more metal than me or most anyone else reading this post. And THAT is cool.

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